Tango, Eh

Trip Start Jan 31, 2005
Trip End Mar 30, 2006

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Monday, June 20, 2005

During the time before and after we visited Iguazu Falls, we spent over two weeks in Buenos Aires, which is longer than we stayed anywhere else in South America (except for when we volunteered for a month in Huancayo, Peru). We didn't visit at the best time - the heart of winter - but winter in Buenos Aires is more like October or November in the Midwest. By the end of our stay we were wearing hats, scarves and gloves most days (hard to imagine all you sweating back home in the summer heat), but it was pretty tolerable except for the rainy days. Despite the cold, we found it hard to leave. It is not necessarily the most beautiful city in the world, but we loved it for its good public transport (including a really cool old subway), many interesting neighborhoods, abundance of good food (although carnivores would appreciate it more), classy residents and quirky crafts markets - known as the Paris of South America. We also stayed in two of our favorite hotels in South America - if anyone is heading to Buenos Aires and needs a place to stay, we have suggestions.

We were lucky enough to have Darcy with us for part of our stay. The day she arrived we headed to the artsy neighborhood of San Telmo for the weekly antique and art market on the main square. In addition to the stuff for sale, there were several street performers. In true Buenos Aires character, we heard lots of tango music and watched some talented dancers. We then spent the next few days walking around the busy central part of the city and one day had lunch at the newly renovated port area. After we returned from our trip to Iguazu we spent a Sunday afternoon at a small town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires called Tigre - kind of a resorty town like South Haven, Michigan. Sailing, rowing, furniture shopping, crafts and a theme park with roller coasters. We went for a ride on a catamaran on the canals lining the downtown and then into the nearby delta. One of the last days Darcy was with us we all got a tour of the Argentina Congress building - interesting to learn about the government, the country's political history and see the site's beautiful architecture.

After Darcy left, one of our first trips was to the US Embassy so Allison could get some pages added to her passport. It was a sort of surreal experience - like we suddenly were beamed into a Secretary of State office and were waiting in line for a car registration or something. But it brought us to a part of the city that we hadn't visited yet, and we ended up coming back a few times. First, there is a botanical garden nearby that was very pretty, but more memorable because it seems to be home to about 150 to 200 domesticated cats. On the way to the embassy we saw about 10 cats sitting under a tree at the front of the park and Allison had to drag Jeff away, even though we both are allergic. We came back later and realized they were all over the gardens. It makes us wonder if we really should be taking cats off the streets in the US - the ones we saw seemed to be doing just fine with a few handouts. Friendly and well-fed. We also came back to another pretty city park located near the embassy on another day; palm trees, a rose garden, a waterway with little boats and people rollerblading - pretty nice even in the winter. We left the park and then headed to the Buenos Aires horsetrack, where we spent a few hours watching races and betting about 30 cents at a time. In the end we lost about $5 including the cost of a program and some snacks (not bad for four hours of entertainment). After watching the ponies, we walked to the nearby neighborhood of Palermo, one of the trendier parts of town. Had dinner at a packed Mexican restaurant (have we ever mentioned that we almost continually crave Tex-Mex and how hard it is to find??) and walked around a bit before returning to our part of town.

Toward the end of our stay in Buenos Aires we visited another neighborhood, La Recoleta, which is famous for a very old cemetery housing Buenos Aires's rich and deceased. It is a small city of huge crypts, some in great condition, others with busted doors or covered in cobwebs. Despite persisent checking behind broken doors, Jeff found nothing fit for a horror movie. Afterwards we walked through a huge nearby crafts market. We had expected Argentina to not have many handicrafts, but the city of Buenos Aires is seemingly filled with artisans making glass jewelry, leather bags and clothes, wood carvings, knitted scarves and hats, etc. Probably would have bought quite a bit of stuff, if we hadn't already gotten so much in the Andean countries.

The last day we were in Buenos Aires we visited one more neighborhood, La Boca. It was the first port in the city and isn't the best area of town these days, but there is one part that is really picturesque and popular (too popular) with tourists. The residents used to paint their houses with colorful leftovers from painting boats, and this tradition has been continued in one part of the neighborhood - see the photo we included.

So, there's South America for you. We'll be back sometime soon with our first report from Africa.......
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